Once again Lent is upon us. I realise that many people in the Church today don’t observe Lent and perhaps don’t even know what it is about. So in this post I am answering the questions:
1. What is Lent and why observe it?
2. How does one observe Lent?
3. Should I observe Lent?
1. What is Lent and why observe it? – Lent is a 40 day period leading up to Easter that focuses on three things, (i) Self Examination; (ii) Prayer; (iii) Repentance.
Historically, Christians who have observed Lent view this 40 day period with the mindset that says “I am going to go into battle against sin in my life”. Now I realise that when many Christians who are from non-traditional Anglican churches (or non-liturgical church) hear this they understandably ask the question: “Why set aside 40 days for Self Examination; Prayer; and Repentance when these are things that Christians should be focusing on all year round?
The reason why I observe Lent and look forward to Lent is that although it is absolutely true that Self Examination; Prayer; and Repentance are things that Christians should be focusing on all year round, they are not always done consistently by me all year round, due to tiredness, laziness, and due to plain old fashioned pride.
I find Lent very helpful in that it provides me a platform and the opportunity to be more deliberate and intentional when it comes to self examination, prayer and repentance. And although Scripture is silent when it comes to Lent, it is certainly not silent when it comes to these three things.
2. How does one observe Lent? – Christians that I know whom observe Lent often give up things in order to be more focussed on repentance. I know one bloke who told me that he gave up Chocolate for Lent. My view is that it is only worth giving things up that serve to hinder your repentance and your walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, thus giving up Chocolate is only worth giving up if it is causing you to sin! Lent is a good time to pray, asking God our Father to show us those sins that we are not dealing with, or those habitual sins that keep revisiting us and discourage us. Use Lent to give these up, during Lent a good move may be to acquire an accountability partner; a godly Christian whom you trust who can ask you how you are going during the next 40 days, someone who will pray for you specifically during those 40 days. And when Lent finishes continue to not sin in the area that God has convicted you about.
Lent is also a time to start something that you should be doing that you are not doing. For example in a previous parish where I served some years ago there was not a strong culture of mid week Bible Study groups, so I encourage the congregation to give up something for Lent that they are currently not doing – “give up not reading the Bible, give up not praying”. So I started a Lenten Bible Study Group. What was great about this is that people who normally didn’t study the Bible came to the group and when Lent finished at Easter, after Easter the Lenten Bible study group continued.
3. Should I observe Lent? I think that Lent is a one of those things that in itself is neither right nor wrong. As I said earlier, Scripture is silent in regards to Lent, so God’s people are free to observe it or not observe it. But I would only say this to you:
If you are struggling with a persistent sin in your life, a habitual sin, a sin that you think you have conquered that keeps returning, if you are struggling with praying and reading the Bible consistently, why not give Lent a crack? You just may find that Lent and the emphasis that it brings is just what you have been needing.
So it is my prayer that if you decide to observe Lent that it will be a wonderful special time of blessing for you, that God will use these 40 days to mould and shape you more and more into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ!
p.s Here is a great Lenten Study Book, ‘Shadows of the Cross’.